When your dog is happy, you’re happy – and when she’s pregnant, making sure she’s as healthy and comfortable as possible is even more important, both for her and for her new arrivals!
If you’re wondering what to feed a pregnant dog, you’re not alone – most dog owners ask this question! It’s important to know that adult-formula dog food won't provide the extra nutrients she needs during her pregnancy, so you’ll need to make some diet changes to help her get what she needs from her food.
Switching to puppy food
To stay as strong, healthy and happy as possible througout her pregnancy, your dog will need an extra boost of protein and energy, which can be found in a regular puppy formula. We recommend slowly switch your dog back to a high-quality puppy formula just before mating, introducing her slowly over a period of 7-10 days to avoid upsetting her stomach. She should stay on this new formula until after she has given birth, and her puppies have been weaned.
What you should feed your dog will also depend on her body condition and any medical problems that she may currently have or has had in the past, so make sure you check with your vet before changing her food.
If your dog is on a special diet for health purposes, or has a sensitive stomach, speak to your vet before you make any changes to her usual meal plan.
Increasing food intake
Like us, dogs can also experience “morning sickness” in their first few weeks of pregnancy, so allow her body time to adjust before increasing her food intake.
From around the fifth week of her pregnancy, start to increase her portions a little more each week until they are about a third larger than usual by week 9. By this point, mum’s weight will have increased by about 25%, which is completely normal, and may be even slightly more if she is expecting a big litter.
For more details on feeding a pregnant dog, visit our dedicated page.
Making water available
Making sure that mum drinks lots is just as important as getting her diet right – especially if she is eating only dry food. Staying hydrated is essential to staying healthy throughout her pregnancy, so make sure that there is plenty of clean water available for her. Placing several bowls in areas of your home that she spends a lot of time in will make it easier for her to get to, especially in the later stages of pregnancy.
When caring for a pregnant dog, regular walks will help keep up her strength, so she’s primed and ready for the arrival of her little ones! Avoid any intensive training, showing, or even obedience schooling though during pregnancy as this can be stressful, and bumps or knocks to her body from boisterous dogs could hurt her unborn puppies.
Walking is a great way to help expectant mums keep fit, which will make her much more capable of handling labour and birth. Try to keep walks shorter but more regular during her pregnancy, as mum will most likely become a bit uncomfortable and tired as her pregnancy goes on. Aim for three to five short walks a day.
As mums pass on immunity to their puppies through their milk, your dog should ideally be up to date with all of her vaccines before mating, so that her antibody levels are at their peak.
If your dog’s vaccinations are overdue during pregnancy, speak to your vet. Some vaccines can be used when she is pregnant, but you will need to check which are safe for both mum and her unborn puppies.
An important part of pregnant dog care is continuing to keep up with her flea and worming treatments.
Mum can pass roundworms and hookworms onto her unborn puppies, so stay safe and treat your dog with products that are safe to use during pregnancy. Discuss this with your vet, as the puppies may also need worming regularly during their first few weeks.
Luckily for dogs, they usually enjoy smooth pregnancies and a hassle-free birth. However, sometimes complications during dog pregnancy can occur, so make sure you know what warning signs to look out for.
Dogs are more likely to develop eclampsia during or after pregnancy than cats. This is a condition caused by a low calcium level. Signs of eclampsia include twitching, nervousness, and agitation. If you notice your dog displaying any of these symptoms, contact your vet immediately as eclampsia can be very dangerous for your dog’s health if it isn’t treated promptly.
If you notice that your dog has been straining to give birth but is struggling to do so, then surgical intervention might be required to deliver her puppies via Caesarean section.
In some cases, a Caesarean section might be pre-planned for your dog – this is usually for breeds of dog that usually have a larger sized head, such as Pugs and Chihuahuas. Due to the shape of their heads, Bulldogs will always need to be born via Caesarean section.
For more information on what complications can happen during dog pregnancy, see out page on things to look out for during dog labour.
Building a ‘nest’
In the final stages of her pregnancy, your dog will want a private place to relax and peacefully give birth in. You can help her by building a ‘nest’ where she can feel warm, comfortable and safe for the delivery of her puppies.
A cardboard box filled with clean blankets, sheets or towels works particularly well. Place the nest in a quiet spot so other pets or children do not disturb her! It’s not unusual for soon-to-be mums to choose somewhere else other than the nest you’ve built, but try to encourage her gently back to your chosen spot.
Keep the nest at room temperature (don’t forget to check for any draughts) to make sure she and her puppies are comfortable.